Rising electricity costs concern for elderly Oklahomans

EDMOND, Okla. – A new survey released this week by AARP shows Oklahomans 50+  are concerned about the rising cost of their electricity bills.

More than three fourths of those surveyed expressed concern about rising electric rates while 43% say their monthly bill has gone up in the past 12 months, said AARP Oklahoma Volunteer State President Marjorie Lyons.

"Higher gas prices, higher grocery bills and higher health care costs coupled with rising electric rates mean Oklahomans 50+ are having a harder time making ends meet," Lyons said. "With many older Oklahomans on a fixed income, it's a pocketbook issue plain and simple."

The newly released survey, which polled more than 800 Oklahomans, was conducted March 21st to March 28th. This survey comes on the heels of a report issued in January that showed just under half of respondents polled had trouble paying their utility bill.

"When the previous study showed so many Oklahomans were having trouble paying their monthly utility bill, it seemed appropriate to dig deeper so that we could better understand how Oklahomans 50+ feel about utility issues. It's another example of how AARP is in my corner fighting on issues that matter to me and my family," Lyons said.

According to survey results, nine out of ten 50+ Oklahomans say they oppose legislation allowing electric companies to charge customers an upfront fee for future construction projects while 79% of those polled oppose legislation allowing electric companies to raise their rates to comply with environmental laws that are anticipated, but not yet passed.

"The survey results affirm AARP's efforts to stop legislation that would result in higher electric rates for consumers," Lyons said. "I am extremely proud of the work AARP has and continues to do on behalf of consumers when it comes to utility issues."

Finally, the new survey shows that most 50+ residents in Oklahoma are not familiar with smart meter technology that was adopted by OG&E last year. A smart meter is a new technology that tracks electricity use based on the time it is used. After smart meters are installed, utility company will be able to offer pricing plans which typically charge higher rates for electricity used during peak times.

73% of those surveyed said they oppose electric companies mandating that consumers get their electricity under time-based rate plans.

"AARP opposes mandatory higher rates during peak times because it would unfairly penalize the elderly and the sick as well as young families who must be home during peak times," said AARP Oklahoma Senior State Director Sean Voskuhl.

Survey results also indicated that respondents were far less likely to vote for candidates that support legislation allowing electric companies to raise rates to comply with environmental laws that are anticipated but not yet passed or candidates that supported legislation allowing electric companies to charge customers upfront for planning, pre-construction and construction of new power plants.

According to results, 77% of respondents said they either always vote or vote most of the time in Oklahoma elections during the last 10 years.

AARP  is  working hard in Oklahoma to help people better afford their energy bills. In 2011, AARP Oklahoma successfully stopped legislation that would have allowed utility companies to charge customer fees upfront for construction of costs of new power plants.  AARP is concerned of about potential increases to consumer's electricity bills in light of the Environmental Protection Agency's  (EPA) recent rejection of  Oklahoma's regional haze plan for reducing pollution from coal-fired power plants. Opponents of the EPA's plan for Oklahoma claim the cost of these scrubbers could  increase utility bills by as much as 30%, Voskuhl  said.

AARP Oklahoma has launched a volunteer team to work on utility issues. Those interested in more information about the AARP Oklahoma Utility Watchdog Team can e-mail the state office at ok@aarp.org or call 1-866-295-7277.

A full copy of the new electric utility survey is available at www.aarp.org/ok.